Molecular motors convert chemical energy into mechanical movement, generating forces necessary to accomplish an array of cellular functions. Since molecular motors generate force, they typically work under loaded conditions where the motor mechanochemistry is altered by the presence of a load. Several biophysical techniques have been developed to study the loaded behavior and force generating capabilities of molecular motors yet most of these techniques require specialized equipment. The frictional loading assay is a modification to the in vitro motility assay that can be performed on a standard epifluorescence microscope, permitting the high-throughput measurement of the loaded mechanochemistry of molecular motors. Here, we describe a model for the molecular basis of the frictional loading assay by modeling the load as a series of either elastic or viscoelastic elements. The model, which calculates the frictional loads imposed by different binding proteins, permits the measurement of isotonic kinetics, force-velocity relationships, and power curves in the motility assay. We show computationally and experimentally that the frictional load imposed by alpha-actinin, the most widely employed actin binding protein in frictional loading experiments, behaves as a viscoelastic rather than purely elastic load. As a test of the model, we examined the frictional loading behavior of rabbit skeletal muscle myosin under normal and fatigue-like conditions using alpha-actinin as a load. We found that, consistent with fiber studies, fatigue-like conditions cause reductions in myosin isometric force, unloaded sliding velocity, maximal power output, and shift the load at which peak power output occurs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-285
Number of pages13
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2010


  • Alpha-actinin
  • Force-velocity relationship
  • Isotonic
  • Power
  • Skeletal muscle fatigue


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